Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Just like the third world

Now that a judge in Spain (the same one who indicted General Pinochet a short while ago) has agreed to look at a prosecutor's request that six former Bushco apparatchiks be tried for (according to AP): (giving) "legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay, a lawyer in the case said Saturday." perhaps the Obama WH will be willing to something about it at our end. In South Africa, Rwanda, the Balkans and Cambodia--among other, mostly third world countries--there have been attempts at "Truth and reconciliation" style commissions. With varying degrees of success these commissions have attempted to clear away the deliberately obfuscatory layers of camouflage and unravel the reality of criminal or just plain bad government policy in those countries. Policies which resulted in much human suffering and lots of death and injury to those countries' citizenry. Can we do less? Can we fail to follow the example of a country like Rwanda and shine a light on the mechanisms, motivations and identities of those responsible for such horrific depradations? Admittedly, in the case of the U.S., from 2000-2008, most of the dying took place in yet other third world countries. Nevertheless, the people of the United States have suffered as well. Certainly we are not victims to the extent of the innocents of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the extra-legal "prisoners" that have been shoved into the likes of Gitmo. However, these actions were taken, like it or not, in our collective names. I am not suggesting the gallows (although I think it is actually an appropriate punishment for some of the people who were in charge during the Bush era), but if we fail to investigate the excesses; if we fail to identify--publicly--the miscreants; if we "sweep it under the rug", it will be impossible to expiate the collective guilt of our nation for what amounts to war crimes. I and most others were simply bystanders, witnesses to the depradations committed in the name of "The war on terror", but our guilt is, while diffuse, quite real in our own hearts. Without the truth coming out we cannot "fix the problem". Can we not do at least as well in this regard as Rwanda?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Deja voodoo vu

Good Morning: I'd like to think that I'm a sane, reasonable guy (not saying it's true, just that I'd like to think that); the reptilicans make it hard for me to think that way. Between the list of Republican governors who are saying they will turn down stimulus package dollars (only, apparently, those that would extend unemployment benefits) and the likes of Rushbo Limpboy stating that they want the plan to fail I'm having a hard time retaining my civility. I say, fine, let those fucking douchebags do whatever they want to in order to boost their political fortunes. Then, take some small percentage of the money they turn down and use it to run some "public service" ads for their constituents--just so that they understand that it's only a portion of the stimulus money that was turned down. I think that would be appropriate. As for Rushbo? I wish I believed in hell. Unfortunately, I don't. However, if Rush were to contract some horrific disease or die of a self-administered drug overdose I would be less than bummed. It was bad enough when these opportunistic sons-of-bitches joined up with the fundies on the sex and prayer crap, now they're thinking seems to be that propsperity (other than theirs) is also a gift from THEIR GOD, and everybody who isn't in their small, select circlejerk isn't worthy of it. Well, fuck them and THEIR GOD. I don't believe in GOD anyway, but the version they hold in their heads is anathema to everything I've ever learned about a compassionate and loving deity. UPDATE: According to Yahoo.News via AP: "Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president at AIG's Financial Products division, said Wednesday he's leaving the company and will donate his entire bonus to charity." The story goes on to talk about DeSantis' anger at being lied to by his employers, yada, yada, yada. You can guess, perhaps, that I'm feeling no sympathy for Mr. DeSantis. He says he spent the last six months working to straighten out this mess. He says he was promised the money, and that AIG and the AG's of NY and CT are meanies. Why no sympathy from me? Well, because he had to know that the whole thing was a fucking sham--he was after all deeply involved in the ongoing ponzi scheme that began with Paulson's giving these assclowns the first $65B--and yet he acquiesced to doing his bit to keep it all a secret until now, in order to obtain a payout in the 7 figure range. Fuck him. He should have manned up back in September and went to DoJ and spilled the beans.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You CAN'T ever go home anymore

I'm sitting at a Panera bakery/cafe at the moment. The spot where the Panera is, now, was, in my youth a sprawling lumberyard. Across the street, what used to "Houlton's Texaco, is now a Walgreen's. The Village Inn Pancake House (my first hourly wage job was there--I was the best fucking busboy in the WORLD!!) is still a block or so from here. But I found out a while back, from one of my brothers that the building, after numerous renovations was actually torn down and replaced a few years back. Omaha keeps molting like a damned lobster, shedding the old for the questionable new. You really can't go home, anymore; 'cause home ain't there. It's not enough that they've widened streets, moved whole neighborhoods and stopped selling beer at a reasonable price (.25/10 oz "draw"). I go into the bars I used to hang out in 35 years ago and all I see are a bunch of old farts--I wonder where my classmates went?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Good morning, Class: Okay, so here's the deal. Joe Biden said, within the last news cycle, that Afghanistan is getting worse, not better. I agree, completely. How do we solve this problem. A.) We shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and use all of the tactics that haven't worked there to the same effect--and, btw, afford the MujahideenAlqueTaliban in Pakistan a terrific recruiting inducement. B.) We kill all of 'em--all the sortabrowns, and let GOD sort them out. C.) We try using our heads. The taliban are very, very nasty people. They are just as nasty as were the Iriquois, the Mohicans, the French and the English (along with their new colonists) in the King Phillip and Revolutionary wars. They're fighting for something that a lot of them believe in--and the ones that don't are probably the top commanders who are your usual messianic, nationalist nutjobs. The taliban have instituted Sharia law wherever they are in control and it is pretty grim living under such a "legal" regime. They outlaw most music and dancing, women being seen in public--without a burqa--and all liguor and drugs. In fact, in areas they've taken over, which include some pretty notorious poppy growing areas, they have eradicated that agriculture and replaced it with the growing of food crops. Oh, what's that I hear? They haven't done that, exactly? Oh, that's right. They initially outlawed all poppy cultivation and processing until they found out that it was a lot better way, than holding flatbread bake sales, to raise money for buying arms and ammo. But why would they do that, don't they know that drugs kill people and cause untold misery? Well, yes, they do. In fact they count on it. See, they know that some Afghans will do drugs (they can be beheaded when necessary--or convenient) but the bulk of their drugs go to other countries and a lot of them wind up here in the USA, USA, USA!!! Due to our War On Drugs, which has even less to do with reality than our War Against Iraqis Who Had Fuck All To Do With 9/11, the street price for good smack is much higher than it used to be. Therefor they get double the bang for the buck. They generate a lot of cash to buy nice things like swords, AK's, RPG's and IED's (not to mention some "weapons grade" plutonium, if the intelligence guys are to be believed) and they get to fuck up our society and create a tremendous strain on already strapped healthcare resources, social services agencies and the legal system. Howsabout we try something really whack, here? I'm just spitballing, mind you; but what if we just decriminalized drugs and treated drug abuse like, oh, I don't know, alcoholism? We could make the drugs which are currently expensive and often very dangerous (no QA to speak of) and untaxed into a product that is safe, reasonably priced and a revenue enhancer. Now, I know that some of you are going to say, "Well, if we legalize drugs like that, everyone will turn into drug-crazed zombies who will steal, rape and kill for their next "fix""! Regrettably that is very true. Addictive, intoxicating substances ALWAYS cause that sort of behavior. Why, I can't even have a couplea brewskis without wanting to off my neighbors, murder their kids and rape their wives--never mind what might happen if I drink a little vino, do a shooter of herradura or smoke a ciggie. It's frikkin' scary what drugs do to folks. Of course the other thing is that, even if you make drugs cheap, legal and safe; the junkies will still want to score their drugs illegally because they're just scum and that's the way they like it. But, damn it, I think it's time we just said the hell with it and cast caution to the winds. I think it's time we started placing more emphasis on fighting the War Against the Drug Profiteers. Whoopsie, I hope that didn't sound like I have an axe to grind with Big Pharma or anything like that. Now, if we can only convince Joe B. that punitive measures against users and street level dealers are a COMPLETE FUCKING WASTE OF TIME AND RESOURCES then perhaps we can get on with doing something positive. I'm not holding my breath.


Monday, March 02, 2009

So, a nice light post about wonderful music.

I saw the most amazing violinist over the weekend: I do some photography (pro bono of course) for a couple of local non-profits and the gig this weekend was to photograph this amazing musician and teacher: Daniel Roumaine is a virtuoso on the violin, no question about that. But, he is so much more. He is a thoughtful, humorous and gifted instructor. Watching him put on two workshops with young people (ages 5 through late teens) was just a joy. He never condescended. He always challenged. And the kids always gave him more than they knew they had to give. What this world needs now is exactly what he has, a love for the process of education and the skill to do the job in such a profoundly uplifting way. Mr. Roumaine is returning to Oswego for a concert on March 21. He and two other composers are going to be playing their works as part of a program celebrating the Hudson River. I look forward to seeing, hearing and photgraphing him again. My photography is not the best, technically. Shit, it's not even close. My favorite subjects are musicians and dancers and I shoot in available light about 99% of the time. What I get are, literally, thousands of out-of-focus, underlit, crappy images. But, on the rare occasion when the gods of chiara-oscuro smile on me; well that's what makes it worthwhile. I'm going to try and put a few photos up with this (none from this weekend--I don't have releases from anyone). They will not be problematic as they will be mostly close-ups of hands and instruments or so blurred that they won't be recognizable. But I just want you to have the idea. If you're subject to motion sickness, take some dramamine. Otherwise, enjoy. The photos will be forthcoming. NB: The second photo was originally on film and when I looked at it the first time I said, "Shit, it's out of focus!". Then I looked at it again and said, "Oh, the microphone is sharp, everything else is moving, COOOOOOOOOOL!" Photo 1: Drums Along The Oswego--The Oswego Jazz Project Photo 2: Jason Quinn, former frontman for the "Blue Hornets"--This band included Jason (who has got a new CD out) and George McCann, an awesome guitar player who, last I heard was playing with James Montgomery. Photo 3: A short, but fiery guitarist (name escapes me) at Glen's Cool Grill and Hot Bar, Newburyport, MA. Photo 4: The sizzling hands of *****, former guitarist with ***** Joel.